AirAsia customers in Perth and Darwin are in the box seat to enjoy brand new planes in coming years after the Malaysian low-cost carrier today unveiled an order for 100 Airbus A321neo (New Engine Option) aircraft.
Valued at some A$16.5 billion (US$12.6 billion) based on list prices, it marks the first time AirAsia has graduated to a larger variant in its hallmark A320 family.
Announcing the deal at the Farnborough Air Show in the UK, AirAsia Group founder and CEO Tony Fernandes said the A320neo jets – due to join the red-and-white fleet from 2019 – would take over existing AirAsia landing slots at the busiest airports throughout the ASEAN region.
The A320neos will carry 236 passengers in the airline's baseline all-economy class layout, up from 180 in today's standard A320 configuration, representing an almost-30% increase in capacity.
This will allow the airline to carry more passengers onto a single flight rather than trying to squeeze new flights into already crowded airports where existing infrastructure was near breaking point.
A key part of the deal was the ability for the A321neo to adhere to the AirAsia model of being able to land, unload passengers and luggage, refuel, load new and push-back for a new flight in as little as 25 minutes.
This would be maintained by having passengers would enter the aircraft from two or even three different doors, where permitted.
"The reality of AirAsia is low cost and low-cost is what we’re all about. Low-cost equals low airfares and that’s how we’ve grown from 200,000 passengers 14 years ago to this year carrying over 60 million passengers."
"And with this aircraft, we will hit 100 million passengers in the not-too-distant future," Fernandes added.
London (and Paris) calling...
Fernandes remains bullish on the prospects of re-opening routes from Kuala Lumpur to London and Paris from 2018, when the airline begins flying its new fuel-efficient A330neo aircraft.
AirAsia X shuttered its European routes in 2012 due to high fuel costs of its four-engine A340 fleet.
The A330neos may also carry a revamped Premium seat, although Fernandes said there were no plans to change from the current angled flat-bed to a fully lie-flat bed.
Matt Lennon travelled to London as a guest of AirAsia Group.
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